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The UAE gets richer, eats more

The UAE gets richer, eats more

According to EIU, food imports in the Gulf will double as residents enjoy higher income levels. Maybe this is where we should focus our sustainable efforts, says Precious de Leon.

November 9, 2011 4:47 by



There are now officially more than 7 billion people on this earth. And as this National Geographic video (see below) shows us that shoulder-to-shoulder 7 billion people would only take up the whole city of Los Angeles, it’s not running out of space we should be worrying about but a balance of resources.

Imagine 5 percent of the world’s population consumers 23 percent of the world’s energy. How excessive is that?

And so it’s more than irksome to see news like this one in the Gulf News reporting that Gulf countries will double its food imports by 2020. The reason? Well, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), it’s because we GCC residents and citizens enjoy comparatively higher levels of income.

Sure. It makes sense that we eat more if we can afford more food. But double? Does this mean we’re also doubling in population as well? This is an eyebrow-raiser. Do the organisers of the Salon International de l’Alimentation (SIAL) Middle East really think this is a plausible explanation? (SIAL released these numbers as a promo for their event which is being held on November 21-23 in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority.)

Feast your eyes on these figures (yeah, baby, pun definitely intended):

  • The UAE is expected to see a jump in food imports to $8.4 billion by 2020—a 133 percent increase from last year’s $3.6 billion
  • The UAE’s growing population will boost food consumption by 5.4 percent annually from 7.8 million tonnes this year to 9.7 million tonnes in 2015
  • The UAE produces roughly 70 percent of the fruit consumed domestically.
  • Less than two percent of land is able to sustain agriculture in large quantities while imports by the Gulf are expected to grow at a yearly rate of 4.6 percent.
  • The GCC will continue to import 85-90 percent of its food stuff annually.

This leads us to one conclusion: why are we looking at ‘sustainable’ development to mean only property and construction? When importation of goods is a perfect example of how the region can show it can create ways to make this process better not just for the environment but to regulate prices as well.
This isn’t a conversation of stopping importation of goods. It is about looking at what can be sources locally and where the imports could be coming from. So how about it? We could all stand to be healthier, yes?



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